In the wake of underground rumblings about the supposed imminent resurgence of tech-house, Defected's Will Lawes takes a detailed look at the club-ready sub-genre.
As we dive headlong into 2014 ‘deep’ house is still riding high as dance music’s favourite sound – certainly in the UK and in a few places beyond our fair borders to boot. Last year saw the genre’s bubble swell in size, with countless producers contributing to both established underground and increasing commercial scenes. However, in the wake of this fascination a notable trend is emerging which shuns the bouncy basslines and catchy vocals proven popular in recent years and instead enforces that familiar house groove, with a stronger focus on polished percussion and no-nonsense, driving energy. That’s right ladies and gentleman, tech house is back – if indeed it ever went away.
Originally derived from record stores who coined the term tech house when referring to house music’s hybridisation with techno, the genre began taking shape early on in Detroit before growing in popularity during the 90s. According to Vladimir Bogdanov in All Music Guide to Electronica: The Definitive Guide to Electronic Music, tech house was used to describe the sound curated by “mostly European producers who culled many of the rhythms and effects of acid and progressive house yet with a clean, simplistic production style suggestive of Detroit and British techno.”
The End, one of the London’s most notorious nightclubs, was fundamental in the rise of tech house. Its founders Layo Paskin and Mr C were forerunners of the genre, their Saturday night parties at the club usually championing a theme of rolling kick drums, thunderous snares and mechanical sounds.
Although The End may have shut its doors for good back in 2009 it was only a small piece of a much bigger picture. Artists such as Anja Schneider, Re.you, Rodriguez Jr, Shlomi Aber, Marc Scholl, Tom Flynn, Steve Bug and Timo Garcia are all excellent examples of first-rate tech house artists, many of which have all been championing the sound for the best part of a decade. Furthermore, reputable imprints Moon Harbour, Mobilee Records and Leena Music are a few of the platforms which predominately put out quality tech house, of which Matthias Tanzmann’s label Moon Harbour has been doing so since its foundation in 2000.
Another advocate of the tech house scene is DJ and producer Nick Curly, an export of south-west Germany renowned for his seminal tech house imprints 8bit and Cecille Records. Curly also spearheaded the lauded ‘Mannheim sound’ alongside the likes of Marcus Fix, Johnny D and Gorge – a deep and groovy take on house which proved refreshing during the minimal era which was running rife at the time throughout Europe, with imprints such as Kompakt, Cocoon, BPitch Control and Traum Schallplatten leading the way.
Now, many of those who have been enjoying deep house for the last couple of years are now becoming engrossed in something different. Whereas the more popular forms of house may come across as predictable, with pitched downvocals, garage elements and rumbling basslines becoming the norm in today’s market, tech house opposes these conventions to instead employ something darker and industrial. Similarly, deep house’s inflation in popularity means many producers are beginning to reject it and instead focus on other genres. Much like Skream, who publically disassociated himself from dubstep last year, producers can have a tendency to move away from a sound when it swells and saturates.
“Things needed to evolve” said the Magnetic Man member in regards to his newfound direction, something many deep house producers may find sympathy with today. Whenever the spotlight is on a particular style of music it inherits fresh and exciting artists who can bring innovation and originality to the scene but also other newcomers who instead capitalise on formulaic production techniques, tainting a genres reputation and in turn diverting listeners away from the artists who have pioneered the sound from the beginning with passion and integrity.
The recent rise of tech house has even spurred on media controversy with Mixmag featuring an article entitled ‘Stop The Tech-House Takeover’. This initiated a wave of responses from readers who took to Twitter to either support or criticise the piece, resulting in a scene-wide debate that in turn lead to a further article in favour of the genre.
With all these precursors of the genres popularisation it is possible that we are on the cusp of a tech house boom? Whatever your take on tech house, this newfound popularity is reflective of the house music’s growing appeal to a wider audience and if this benefits the scene then who are we to complain?
Words: Will Lawes